Unlicensed Dentists Practicing Fraud on Canadians
The B.C. College of Dental Surgeons worked with Canadian police to raid the home of a man named Tung Sheng (David) Wu for the crime of practicing dentistry without a license. The battle to put “dentists” like Wu behind bars or at the minimum to put them out of business is just getting started. The issue affects not only Canadian residents who have received inadequate and often dangerous procedures but also licensed dentists, dental colleges and dental insurance companies across Canada.
Wu’s home-based dental clinic served about 1500 patients, all of whom now need to be tested for diseases that might have been caused by Wu’s improperly sterilized dental equipment. Such conditions are typical in these unauthorized dental clinics. This one clinic is just the tip of the iceberg.
Patients Are Tricked into Trusting Unlicensed Dentists
One might wonder why people even consider going to these clinics when there are so many bona fide dentists in Canada. The answer lies in the way unlicensed dentists develop a false sense of trust in their prospective patients.
How does it work? The fake dentists have a particular modus operandi. They go to ethnic communities and befriend the people in churches and other community organizations. They develop relationships with the people there, who come to trust them explicitly. The prospective patients feel comfortable with them because they speak their language, appear to be from the same type of background and seem to care about the same issues they are interested in.
Once trust is established, getting them into the clinics is a simple matter. The “dentists” subtly spread the news that they offer dental care at a drastically reduced cost. They don’t mention their lack of credentials, and most of their patients are unaware they are dealing with someone who doesn’t know or follow established guidelines and regulations.
Dangers of Getting Treatment from an Illegal Dentist
Aside from being exposed to diseases because of improperly cleaned and sterilized equipment, there are several other dangers, both physical and financial. First, if the dentist performs oral surgery, the results can be disastrous, damaging your teeth and/or disfiguring you permanently. Some patients of these so-called dental clinics have lost several teeth. Most have needed corrective treatment to repair the damage caused by these dentists. Second, the dentist may not even do dental procedures at all. They may go through some of the motions of providing dental care without completing the entire treatment, asking you to pay when you have received no real treatment at all.
How Unlicensed Dentists Cause Problems for Dental Insurance Companies
Dental insurance and even primary care insurance companies are suffering because unlicensed dentists continue to practice. These problems go back to the consumer as additional costs drive insurance rates higher.
One issue is that much work done by unlicensed dentists will eventually need to be repaired. These procedures are often costlier than prevention or proper treatments. Some procedures that could be done by a licensed dentist in one visit must be corrected in a series of treatments that are much more extensive and costly.
Another issue is that some back-room dentists may try to file claims to defraud the insurance companies. Finally, when an illegal dentist sends a patient to a licensed dentist for a second opinion, that examination and consultation may be covered. It serves no purpose for the patient but adds to the burden insurance companies bear in paying for treatments. Again, the insurance costs are driven up for everyone.
Spotting an Unlicensed Dentist
Like Wu, unlicensed B.C. dentist Valentyn Uvarov worked from a bedroom office. Others work from the basement of their home. This seems to be typical. It would seem obvious to most Canadians that a reliable dentist would run their clinic from a fully-staffed, fully-equipped professional-looking clinic. The first obstacle these unfortunate people face in recognizing them as illegal dentists is that they already trust them. They believe they are true friends.
The second reason is that many of them haven’t been in Canada long enough to be aware of the way dental clinics are run in this country. So, the first step in recognizing a fake dentist’s operation is noticing where the treatment takes place.
Another problem has to do with the fact that so many of these patients are newly-arrived in Canada or have close ties to other countries. Because of this, they believe the unlicensed dentists when they say they were completely qualified somewhere other than Canada. The patients may know they aren’t licensed here, but they don’t worry about it because they trust that the dentist has adequate dental training.
In addition, the equipment is usually old, outdated, dirty and sometimes rusted. True dentists in Canada pride themselves on having well-equipped offices with newer equipment that is kept in top condition and meticulously cleaned. One fake dentist even used a simple toaster oven in an attempt to sterilize his dental equipment. Many of these offices are so dirty that you can find bloody gauze littering the floor. Take a look around the office of any dentist you go to and notice whether the equipment looks clean and adequate.
Some improper procedures are easy to spot. For instance, one illegal dentist in Ottawa used a hammer to break loose a crown. These dentists may also have someone else who is posing as a dental hygienist do oral surgery on patients without adequate training or medical directives.
One thing that’s easy to recognize is when so-called dentists treat you without taking dental x-rays. X-rays are a normal and necessary part of diagnosis and treatment planning. In fact, x-rays are so important that a dentist can legally refuse to treat you if you don’t allow them to take the x-rays.
The best way to tell if a dentist isn’t licensed is to go to the dental college for your province and ask if a dentist is indeed on the list of licensed dental providers. It would be easy enough to make up a fake dental school certificate to hang on a wall, but the truth is that most of these dentists don’t even bother with doing it. Their patients want the lowest prices possible, and these charlatans do charge less.
Dentists Need to Be on the Lookout for Dental Work Done by Unlicensed Dentists
Licensed Canadian dentists can help the effort to find and shut down unlicensed dental operations. Although many of the patients will not reveal the name of the bogus dentist who did the work in fear of losing friends in their community, most often the patient’s dental conditions will alert a real dentist that inadequate or dangerous treatment has been done on them.
Often, the evidence in a patient’s mouth is obvious. The teeth and gums can be so disfigured that the work could have only been done by someone who didn’t know proper procedures or didn’t know what to do if something went wrong. A patient who had dental work done from an unlicensed dentist may develop large abscesses or severe toothaches afterwards. Because similar conditions can happen even to patients who receive proper dental care or get no dental care at all, dentists need to investigate further whenever they see these problems, especially in new patients.
Surprisingly, many of the fake dentists refer their patients to licensed dentists for second opinions. If you are a dentist who has a new patient come in asking for a second opinion, always find out who gave the original diagnosis and check to see that they are licensed.
One more way to identify illegal dentists is for real dentists to pay attention when a patient expresses surprise at the cost of a procedure. For some, this simply means that they have not had that particular procedure done before and are unaware of the standard cost. For others, though, it means they have been quoted a drastically reduced price for the same procedure from an unlicensed dentist.
Educating Patients on Unlicensed Dentistry Is an Ongoing Concern
Any dental patient can eventually be tempted to use an illegal dentist. Therefore, you need to educate your patients on the dangers inherent in going to them for dental work. If they have already gone to an unlicensed dentist, you can point out mistakes that have been made and explain the long-term damage that has been caused by those bedroom procedures.
You can also have brochures or fact sheets made up to distribute to patients who come to your clinic. Another route is to add a page on your dental website that discusses the problem and gives details about how to report the issue to authorities. You can, with the patients’ permission, show photos of the disastrous results of this dangerous dental work along with pictures of the results of the same procedures when done correctly. Place them on your websites or brochures.
Reporting Scams Is an Easy Matter
Dental colleges are becoming more aware of the problem of dental fraud. Although their primary concern is working with licensed dentists, they have begun to make the effort to deal with inferior, untrained, unlicensed dentists.
To report dental fraud, including unlicensed dental clinics, contact the dental college in your province.
The Ontario Dental College contact information for these complaints is:
Royal College of Dental Surgeons
6 Crescent Road
Toronto, ON M4W 1T1
fax: 416-961-5814 Attention: Complaints
e-mail: [email protected]
If you aren’t sure the practice is unlicensed or that you want to report them, you can discuss the matter with the dental college before you file your formal complaint.
You will simply need to give your own contact information, the unlicensed dentist’s full name and the location of their clinic, the names of other dentists who you know are aware of the situation, and any information you know about the illegal dentist’s operation.